While watching this film on a whim last night on Netflix, it gave me the idea to start a new column here on Horror homework. Most of us use Netflix streaming by now, and I always get requests for recommendations for worthwhile streaming flicks on the service.
And I scroll through the endless choices as most of you probably do, waiting for something that stands out or really grabs my attention.
Last night, instead of 45 minutes of scrolling, I just pulled the fuckin trigger and took what they gave me. If you guys are interested, I think I will try and make this a regular column.
It turns out that The Den is a film with an interesting premise utilizing all the modern technology and gadgets that we can’t live without, well-executed in a stylish manner. The film tells the story of Elizabeth, a young twenty-something journalist who proposes a study project immersing herself in the culture of a huge social website. The Den is something similar to chat roulette and omegle, where anyone can get connected to random people all around the world to befriend, chat with, shown their boobs to, whatever they choose.
Much of the film’s running time is seen through the lens of Elizabeth’s webcam, making this the next evolution of a found footage flick. I know that many horror fans are sick of found footage films, but I personally enjoy them when they are done well (see Willow Creek!). This unique incarnation of the technique works very well, especially considering that the story line requires her to constantly be staring into the camera.
The likeable character of Elizabeth (actress Melanie Papalia) helps to quickly connect the audience with the world of the film by plugging us right in to her daily life. It doesn’t take long for the dark corners of the internet to rear their ugly heads, and the creepiest part of the film to me was that unmoving avatar staring right into the camera, when Elizabeth has the misfortune of crossing paths with of The Den‘s users known as pyagrl*16.
Before long, this mysterious user infiltrates Elizabeth’s real life by hacking into her computer and manipulating her whole world easily through her myriad of gadgets. We never hear her tormentor speak, in fact we only know him through the rough texts and horrific videos he tortures her with. Before long, everything escalates and the police can’t do anything to help her as the film reveals itself to actually be a creative spin on the slasher genre.
One by one, Elizabeth’s real life friends get targeted by this madman who finally reveals himself wearing a very creepy dead-eyed sack mask, but still never speaks. The kills are gruesome, although the found footage aspect of the film becomes questionable and a little shaky in the later scenes. Some really gory effects and close up shots of the cuts and other methods of torture are executed perfectly and really make your toes curl up!
The directorial debut of Russian director Zachary Donohue, The Den turns out to be a very creepy statement on our current obsessions with constantly being connected, and preys on modern fears of how safe the internet really is. The final scenes of the film say a lot about our culture of voyeurism, and ultimately the film manages to get under the viewer’s skin and stay there.
I really enjoyed it.
The Den is recommended for all of you Netflix streamers out there, and can also be found for sale on DVD here. It is eerily effective for those of us addicted to cyberspace, and particularly haunting to watch in the dark on your computer when you are home alone.
Let me know in the comments if you guys would be interested in more of these “Netflix Roulette” posts.